Making it clear from the outset that vibrancy (and guitars) are a key element of their third album, Pale Waves kick off Unwanted (Dirty Hit) hurtling straight into a vocal and guitar-strummed combo two-line tease of what is to come throughout the album. While opening track ‘Lies’ may spend most of its run-time stripped down to a funking bass and drum pattern playing under Heather Baron-Gracie’s catchy vocal lines, it flashes enough of a smile to let us know the six-string grin is back.
Having stripped out the eighties jubilation of their debut My Mind Makes Noises on last year’s more reflective and perhaps less impactful Who Am I?, the removal of opportunities to hit the road in support of their second album led to Baron-Gracie heading into writing sessions with a close-knit group with the intention of producing a slew of songs that would bring the energy and joie de vivre to the live arena once life and times allowed, and the resultant shot in the arm of their embracing of pop-punk brightness and exuberance suits Pale Waves no end.
And, through the Avril Lavigne bounce of ‘Unwanted’, the upbeat rocky anthem ‘Only Problem’ that launches into a raucous solo based around the song’s chorus motif before a joyous key change, and by embracing their paramores, um, Paramore with the pop-rock of ‘Alone’, ‘Reasons To Live’ and ‘Act My Age’ which strut, sparkle and shake – cos that’s what you get – Pale Waves wear their nineties and noughties influences on their sleeves. Elsewhere, ‘Jealousy’ adds a touch of Halestorm hard rock to their core Waves shimmer, with ‘Clean’ and ‘So Sick (Of Missing You)’ further examples of referring back to their debut, but updating, polishing and playfully flicking the V’s and adding a touch of Alanis to the party.
There is a more sombre side to Pale Waves, too, that plays out with elegance, with the album’s three reflective and sobering tracks spread across the album: ‘Without You’, a bittersweet and classy ballad that holds the centre of the album together, latter track ‘Numb’ is contemplative and meaningful, and ‘The Hard Way’ is a powerful tale reminiscent of the emotive and powerful quieter moments of My Chemical Romance and Green Day.
While the songs are what we’re here for, up-front and centre is Baron-Gracie, with less affectation and more assurance in her voice than on the first two records she effortlessly balances being distinctive, confident and vulnerable at the right times, ensuring Pale Waves’ identity is cemented and clear.
When My Mind Makes Noises (accompanied by a breakthrough Glastonbury performance) launched Pale Waves to the world, we were presented with a band with several great songs and a song-writing star with the x-factor to take their act to great heights leading them. Unwanted is the natural next step, adding shine, polish and the most natural and best elements of their influences and sound via a pop-punk turbo-boost that means Pale Waves not just wanted, but irresistible on this form.
8 / 10